This is the most encouraging thing I’ve heard out of an AHA so far.

At the panel on the 1980s (Gil Troy, David Greenberg, Vincent Cannato and Meg Jacobs) the historians staged a mini-revolt against 122 years of AHA custom and tradition. Instead of reading their papers they provided 10 minute summaries and then opened the floor to questions. The atmosphere was said to be exhilarating.

Paper reading must stop! Seriously. Many (most?) other social science disciplines don’t do it. Historians in the main either don’t know how to or can’t write for spoken presentation. So you get someone reading written prose. Dude, here’s a secret: if I want to take in written prose, I could read it to myself faster and better than you can read it aloud.

I don’t quite believe the anonymous common-man interviewee’s (what, is Rick Shenkman turning into Thomas Friedman?) take on it:

“The success of the format came from tapping into what should be viewed as the major asset — all the smart, informed, passionate people listening to the papers, rather than the three or four ‘experts’ at the top.”

If you’re putting air- and/or scare-quotes around experts with that panel, you’re kind of totally wrong. Those are pretty much experts. I know two of the three panelists well enough personally (Meg and David) to believe they would have been not only expert, but adders of high value in a verbal presentation. But hey, I wasn’t there, and maybe Shenkman’s FriedMan is correct.